MEA – a modest beginning

அறம் செய விரும்பு 

The Shimla school was wound up in course of time with the Reading Road (later Mandir Marg) school picking up enrollment as most of the South Indians were living in Karol Bagh, Gole Market & Paharganj areas.  We were running short of space, the Telugu section had to be shifted to the auditorium of The South India Club in front of the school.  We got into an agreement with the New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) to use 5 – 6 classrooms from their facility adjoining our school that eased our space situation a little.  The primary school was soon upgraded to middle school, so the community had established their first ever minority school of their own, in the heart of the city, just a kilometre away from Connaught Place.  At this juncture in 1943, Shri. K. Suryanarayanan came from Madurai and took charge as Principal, raising it to a higher secondary school.  Gradually things fell in place and we sent our first batch of students for the Board examination in 1949.  Incidentally, Smt. Durgabai Deshmukh founded the Andhra Education Society and we transitioned the Telugu children into their own school. 

In the meantime, the South Indian government officials (the parents) managed to get a huge plot of land allotted to the MEA where a beautiful school building started coming up.  This was the magnificent Lodi Estate school.  The entire Reading Road school was shifted to the new premises in July 1956, when I joined the MEA.  However, the Reading Road school continued to function as a feeder school with classes 1 – 8 that catered to the needs of families living nearby.  The MEA also rented a residential building at Karol Bagh to run a branch school for the convenience of small children in the primary classes.  Everybody however, had to go to Lodi Estate school, irrespective of their residence, for higher secondary classes.  Students came from far flung areas like Kingsway Camp, Kashmere Gate, Daryaganj, Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony, Kalkaji, Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Gole Market & Lodi Road areas.  In this city of long distances, transportation was a big problem, especially for the girl students.  So the MEA acquired a fleet of buses of their own proudly displaying “MEA Higher Secondary School, New Delhi” written on the sides.  The school timings were very convenient too (10 AM to 4 PM) that remained unchanged round the year.  That was also something unique to our schools.  The parents were indeed very happy with all these arrangements and so was I! 

The entire set-up of the Lodi Estate school looked so grand.  Primary classes had one section each, Middle classes had two sections each, and Higher secondary classes (IX, X and XI) had six sections each, four of which were science sections!  Total enrollments soon crossed 1,000 and there was paucity of classrooms again.  The primary children, being very young, had to be given good classrooms.  The final year students – six sections of class XI – could not be denied rooms either as they were at the verge of leaving school.  We had three science laboratories, one domestic science laboratory, one big hall for Engineering Drawing, one big room for Geography, and a library  The school office, Principal’s room and staff room accounted for three classrooms.  Of course, one room had to be a canteen inevitably.  As a result, we had to accommodate classes 6 – 10 in tents on the sides of the building.  It was a strange experience teaching high level mathematics for the senior classes in those tents, everything open & noisy all around, and a sight to see especially on rainy days!  Looking back it seems like both teachers and students had fun and no one minded the inconvenience despite the extreme weather conditions in Delhi.

The school was headed by Principal Shri. Suryanarayanan, who also taught Trigonometry for class XI, setting an example for others.  The staff members were drawn from various parts of the country who worked like a perfect team with absolute dedication and mutual admiration, something unbelievable these days.  It was a mini-India in action, where the teachers were learning and competing healthily with one another to improve the quality of classroom teaching.  I still remember the times when Principal Suryanarayanan used to request a 15-minute appointment with me (also teaching mathematics) to brainstorm teaching methods on some abstract topics.  I used to feel so honored.  The medium of instruction was strictly English, the students were bright by and large, with good communicative abilities.  Having come from a remote village myself at a young age of 22, all this was too good to be true!

I will be introducing some of the teachers of those early times in my subsequent articles, however, one teacher that created a record of sorts is Ms. M. Visalakshi, popularly known as “Chiththi Teacher”.  Very affectionate by nature and a young widow, Chiththi Teacher, joined the school at Shimla around the age of 18 years, then came over to MEA, Delhi and served over four decades, all along teaching only class 1 and none other, year after year.  The Delhi Government in recognition of her marathon service to class 1 children, conferred Best Teacher Award prior to her retirement in early 1970’s that included a citation, cash award and most surprisingly a 2-year extension of service which rarely happens.

A hallmark of our MEA school was that it was owned & run purely by the parents with no substantial financial support from any other source.  The parents were the consumers and they were also the managers (by election).  The Secretary of the MEA is like the CEO of a corporation.  A relationship of mutual respect existed between the staff and the parents that was the backbone of the institution.  This is something very unique to our schools that set us apart from other schools.  There was no Trust, no big financial backup from corporations, no capital whatsoever.  That is the reason why each of the existing seven schools started out in tents.  The community was most concerned with providing quality education as a matter of priority to their children and nothing would deter them from that focus.  The local government provided grant-in-aid that met 95% of teachers’ salaries and other running expenses of the school, however, we were not allowed to charge tuition fees up to class VIII, after which a nominal tuition fee could be charged, which too was adjusted against the grant.  All building costs were to be borne by the schools themselves.  It remains a wonder how the MEA / DTEA could gradually raise full-fledged buildings for their seven schools without any Capital!  Our real asset was the goodwill of the community.   To raise funds, the Management periodically organized drama festivals and dance / music concerts, inviting sponsorship and releasing souvenirs on such occasions.  I remember Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi giving free concerts on several occasions.  In addition, the PTA of each school organized fund collection drives to meet the immediate needs of their respective schools.  In this context, I should acknowledge the benevolence shown by the Old Students’ Association in 1964, synchronizing with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the MEA, when they donated the Science Block to the Lodi Estate school.

Above all, the MEA was fortunate to have luminaries as Presidents to guide their affairs from time to time.  Some of the illustrious personalities who gave leadership during the formative stages included Shri. V.P. Menon, Shri. R. Venkataraman, Dr. P. Subbarayan, Dr. K.S. Krishnan, Shri. C. R. Pattabhiraman, Shri. K. S. Ramaswamy, Dr. P.S. Lokanathan and Shri. C.S. Ramachandran I.C.S.  Many thanks to the concerted efforts of the entire South Indian community, we made a mark as the topmost school in New Delhi.

reading-road-1956-57

Staff members sitting Left to Right:

K.Ramasubramanian, K.V.Haraharakrishnan, S.Yegneswaran, V.Swaminatha Iyer, David Gnaniah, S.Natarajan, Jaya Venkataraman, Makhan Lal Jan, A.P.Narayanaswami Iyer, S.Ramakrishnan, Tej Kiran Jain

Standing Top Row – Third from Left is Tulsi Ram – Seniormost Class IV staff who joined the MEA from the days PHS Iyer started the school.

*************

More on the MEA / DTEA story to follow…

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13 Responses to “MEA – a modest beginning”


  1. 1 Angarai Sridhar August 9, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Natarajan Sir,
    You have rekindled our fond memories by your wonderful write ups and I fondly remember the State award won by Chithi taecher. My father, Shri.A.V.Srinivasan had the fortune of serving as Administrator of LB Nagar school for sometime. I had a chance of visitng LB Nagar school during my visit to India five years back when I took my wife and daughters and showed them both LB Nagar and Lodhi Estate schools. I will be eagerly waiting for more to come from your side. Thanks.

    btw I passed out from LR school in the year 1973.

    A.S.Sridhar

  2. 2 ramey August 9, 2008 at 4:39 am

    sir

    this is sheer brilliance… it leaves goose pimples all over…

    my respects to you sir…

    ramey
    LE-1975

  3. 3 gkamesh August 9, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Sheer joy reading this post, Sir…

    And that short account about Chitti Teacher was very touching. Koti Pranams to her…

    And if I may echo the immortal words of Oliver Twist, “Please Sir, I want some more…”

    Pranams

  4. 4 Srinivasa August 9, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Natarajan Sir,

    This is really wonderful. I think your narrative serves as an oral history of the MEA/DTEA Schools and is as such, quite invaluable. I think any scholar in the future who takes up the daunting task of writing a history of the Tamil cummunity in Delhi will first have to read these blog posts.

    So many trails on the Memory Lane that I don’t know where to start even. Certainly Chiththi Teacher, long forgotten but perhaps not quite, swam quickly into view and belongs to the fondest of such memories. During combined Annual Days, Satyamurti Recitiation/Elocution contests, one had the opportunity of seeing this legendary teacher.

    Principal Suryanarayanan – they certainly don’t make teachers like him any more – is one of the most inspirational teachers ever. I still remember when he was felicitated in the school after he got his Teacher’s Award. We even got a ho9liday after that.

    Though we were not taught by him personally, we used his Trigonometry book. The one hour papers in that book prepared us like no other book could have prepared. In that sense he did teach us personally and so are we all Ekalavya’s who didn’t have to give any gurudakshina.

    Please continue your reminiscences and kindly write about T Rajagopalan (Principal, Pusa Road) and the co-author of the Triginometry textbook. My brother was taught by him and he still recalls every class of his as if it happened yesterday.

    I am looking forward to your next posts.

    Warm Regards,

    L N Srinivasakrishnan

  5. 5 V.Thirumalai August 9, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Sir,

    This is unfolding to be a fine Chronicle on truly one of the finest institutions. I remember seeing Chitti teacher during our sports day outings to LB school. She used to be very agile in the playground despite her very distinguishing looks in a 9 yards saree.

    Wonderful account. Keenly awaiting the next sequel sir.

    Regards

    Thiru

  6. 6 R Dasarathy August 10, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Dear Sir:

    This is a story which needs to be told and read again and again ! We all know of the hugely successful stories of the children, who passed out of the MEA/ DTEA schools and at the same integrated both with the North and the South Indian aspects. What we know little is about the pioneers who created this ambience and opportunity for the children. So many many thanks Sir, for recounting these lesser known aspects.

    With respects

    R Dasarathy

  7. 7 Radhika August 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Respected Sir,

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. Lots of info there I wasn’t even aware of. I passed out from the Pusa Road School catering largely to the WEA Tamil population. I look forward to reading about the teachers & principals of Pusa Road too.

    Regards
    Radhika

  8. 8 T.M.Janaki December 23, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Respected Natarajan Sir,
    I have been your student both at Lodhi road and probably at Reading road as I was in the first batch of only Arts group students who were shifted back to Reading road .We had Shri V.Subramanyam as the Principal.We were blessed with teachers like yourself,Easwaran Sir –English–mrs.kamala Doraiswamy–social studies,Shri Ramakrishnan and Shri Vikramdeva for Sanskrit–their impact on me was so strong that I took up sanskrit Hons for graduation and that was in those days unexpected for the school topper that I was to take up.Today I am so satisfied that I did.The flood of thoughts that your article has taken me through is just incessant.I have been a teacher myself and the strong academic base that I got at our school helped me to bring up two good sons who are successful as a surgeon and CA .Many Many thanks and Many Many Pranaams.Though I have not mentioned the names of so many of my teachers each one of them will remain for ever in my memory Lalitha teacher,Chellam teacher,Arya sir.Partha Sarathy sir–tamil–now known as the great author,Janakiraman sir’Swaminathan Sir ,Rao sir Rajaraman Sir–the betel chewing chemistry sir.the school had started the Biology section on my father’s insisting on having it for my sistert santha’s sake as the school did not want to lose a good student.such was the attitude of schools those days and today she is a successful doctor.our entire family–our father was Shri T.N.m.Lingam who was the circulation manager of The Times of India –is indebted to rthe school.but for the school we wouldnot have been what we are today–ever grateful—Janaki subramanian–neeT.M.Janaki

  9. 9 C. P. Ramani February 2, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Janaki: So good to read your input. I too have very fond memories of the MEA School and not a weekend goes by when I am not reminded of someone from that era. Where have all the care-free student days gone? I now live in California and would enjoy meeting folks from that time period (early 60’s) who now live and work in teh U.S. My sister C.P. Shantha, and brothers Mohan and Ganesh all graduated from MEAHS. What a great school, what great teachers and what a wondeful value-system!

  10. 10 Kusum March 26, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I graduated from DTEA (MEA) LR in 1973- Kamesh gave this link to our yahoo class group. The posts and the photos are wonderful. The history of our school comes to life in your writings. I joined in Std.8 – but remember and cherish all those memories.I will always be grateful to the school for the wonderful education we received and the values we imbibed just by being there.
    Thank you again for taking the time to write all this.
    Kusum Viswanathan (nee Ramakrishna)

  11. 11 Janaki Srinath July 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I am Janaki, the daughter and youngest child of Shri P.H.S. Iyer and Lalitha teacher.

    Reading about how old students of DTEA feel about the school and my parents is overwhelming. I am touched that so many people nurse fond memories of their alma mater.

    Janaki Srinath

    • 12 Krish July 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm

      Janaki Ma’am,

      We are tracing the details of family mmbers of PHS Iyer who made entire Tamil sepaking Indians proud by promoting Tamil language education in Northern India. Kindly send us the details and the contact addresses please.
      krishnamachari
      krish.9818092191@gmail.com
      ph: 9818092191

  12. 13 Dr. Krishnan Gorur January 30, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I attended the Mandir Marg Madrasi School from 1946 to 1958 when I graduated from the Tents adjacent to the Lodhi Estate facilities designed by an young South Indian architect. After finishing Engineering college, I taught at the School of Planning and Architecture and finally received my doctorate from the same institution as Einstein, thanks to the most solid foundations laid by wonderful teachers in Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. I am ashamed that I cannot remember the names but distinctly recollect several caning punishments given to me (during the early morning Prayer assembly) by revered Principal Suryanarayanan, for my childish pranks in class.
    I used to walk to school from Gole Market to Mandir Marg because some rough kid used to bully me on the school bus. I even got a black eye once but never identified the culprit either to my parents or to the principal, because I did not perceive being a snitch and had considerable pride, even at that age of 16. Six years later, I earned a Black Belt in Judo and Karate and a Private Pilot’s License, long before I learned to drive a car.
    I had wonderful class-mates as well. Two others that I loved included the Physical Education Instructor who managed the Boy/Cub Scouts as well as a North Indian teacher, Shri Arya clad in Saffron clothes, who built an intense patriotic fervor in me by relating vivid stories of oppression and abuse by the British in India. They made a tremendous impression on a young mind.
    I have lead a very creative life, working across cultures on four continents, speaking seven languages with ease and being assigned to two prestigious US Department of State’s assignments in Afghanistan as an Advisor to the Ministry of Interior and the Afghan National Police. – I credit all my teachers at M.E.A. who had meticulously cared for my growth and development. Memories flood my eyes with tears because I’ll never be able to repay their dedication and kindness or to express my gratitude for their optimistic investments now that I am so far away, embedded in an alien culture of guns and random school violence.
    I am past 73, married happily to an intelligent and beautiful American but dying after heart surgery. I hope the school’s legacy thrives and the environment continues to nurture young minds to enrich other lives. Thank you for the blogs.


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